By Kevin Poulsen
May 13, 2008
Five workers at the Internal Revenue Service’s Fresno, California, return processing center were charged Monday with computer fraud and unauthorized access to tax return information for allegedly peeking into taxpayers’ files for their own purposes.
“The IRS has a method for looking for unauthorized access, and it keeps audit trails, and occasionally it will pump out information about who’s done what,” says assistant U.S. attorney Mark McKoen, who’s prosecuting the cases in federal court in Fresno. “In general terms, IRS employees are only authorized to access the accounts of taxpayers who write in. They’re not allowed to access friends, relatives, neighbors, celebrities.”
With tax return information just a few keystrokes away, IRS employees succumb to curiosity often enough that the agency has its own word for such browsing: UNAX, (pronounced you-nacks) , for “unauthorized access.” In congressional testimony last month, a Treasury Department investigator said employee prying was on the rise, with 430 known cases in 1998, and 521 last year.
“Whether the intent is fraud or simply curiosity, the potential exists for unauthorized accesses to tax information of high-profile individuals and other taxpayers,” testified J. Russell George, the department’s Inspector General for Tax Administration. “The competing goals of protecting this information and achieving workplace efficiencies become even more difficult as technology becomes faster and more complex.”
The five charged this week are Corina Yepez, Melissa Moisa, Brenda Jurado, Irene Fierro and David Baker. Only 13 taxpayers were compromised — each worker allegedly peeked at one to four tax returns, in incidents from 2005 through last year.
The age of some of the incidents suggests the Inspector General’s office is breaking out new algorithms to find anomalies in audit trails going back years. The office declined to comment, as did the IRS.
Workers caught in a UNAX are typically subject to disciplinary measures like unpaid leave, and less commonly charged with misdemeanor violations of the Taxpayer Browsing Protection Act and the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. There were 185 such prosecutions from 1998 to 2007, with offenders typically receiving probation.
This, My Friends™, is what we call ‘a gift’.
Sign on IRS data manager’s desk ‘I am a UNAX sysadmin’!!!
Since it is un authorized, surely it should be ‘un-acks’, not ‘you-nack’s… but that would mean we pronounce UNIX as ‘un-ix’….
but I digress…
This is what The Google provides on UNAX from the Federal Employees Discussion Board:
Member posted June 17, 2002 10:52 AM
I have a UNAX problem.
They pulled my transcript on the IDRS, they found where I looked up an ex. I did this without thought and and it was found. It was so long ago that I didn’t even remember it. I have to pull calendars of my own notes to see if it was a possibility.
Well, the only thing I could find is where I was changeing my sons last name and I guess I did do it.
There is another lady in my office that looked up her son, as she had a fall out a long time ago and wanted to just find him.
She received 2 days LWOP. I am told I will be getting termination papers.
She admitted to doing it and why.
I did not remember until it was brought to my attention.
I think this is unfair.
She is a person who lives by the rule of “It’s not my job” and flexs for child care.
I live by the rule of “what can I help you with” and am getting the boot.
Is there anyway I can stop this?
I’ve been told that if I go to arbitration I can get this overturned. This is a 9 month to 1 year process. Who can afford to stay off that long. I am the main bread winner of the family.
I’ve also been told that arbitration costs money and comes out of our own pocket. I am in the union, I thought they paid for it.
Can anyone help me?
Thanks you all for your input.
I appreciated all you trying to help
Unfortunately, I ened up with –
No Douglas Factors taken into consideration.
I received a 30 LWOP suspension.
I tried to go to MSPB with a copy of another persons write up in our office whom admitted to doing the same thing and they only got a write up, and theirs were done more times than mine.
They gave me this line of I worked in SB/SE and they worked in W & I is why the difference, even tho when I had the phone interview with the judge, he seemed real suprised that he had not known about the other person.
So I lost the MSPB.
Anyway, I’m just happy to be STILL working and will bite my tounge for the next 12 years and 7 months. 17 years and 5 months done.
You can bet, I won’t be that stupid again.
Again, I thank you all for listening and you suggestions.
“””BECAUZE YOU KNOW WHAT THEY LIKE TO DO WHEN YOU ARE ON A SHEIT LIST..THEY MAKE YOUR LIFE A LIVING HELL UNTIL YOU QUIT..”””
Are you aware of the illegality of what you described?
It is referred to as Constructive Discharge. You may want to read up on it so you will recognize it when it begins to happen to you or someone around you.
It appears we must tow the line and obey the laws of the land. The govt on the otherhand….
Oh dear me.
Take a look at the site, and marvel at all the acronyms; they have a language all their own, separate from the language of non-government employees (the other 50% of the population). Could this be the beginning of an HG Wells split of the human population? The first thing that would change would be the language, the loyalty, and then the rights the food the accommodation….but I digress again.
Im sure that there are many UNIX people who could make a slew of funny UNAX/IX jokes ‘for the lulz’….